On centralized vs. decentralized neurotechnologies
By Aiden Arnold
Neurotechnology is any technology developed to interface with brain function. It is a rapidly advancing area with important implications for the study of the brain and neurological disorders, as well as consumerization of the connectome and related neurocognitive processes. However, the topology of different neurotechnologies remains limited. One useful classification is between centralized and decentralized neurotechnologies. Centralized neurotechnologies are defined as having a direct input and/or output with the central nervous system (CNS). An example of this is a deep brain stimulation machine with inputs to the cortex or subcortical nuclei that is used to modulate neurotransmitter activity. Conversely, decentralized neurotechnologies do not share a direct link to CNS, but are designed to sense and/or modulate neural function. An example is a machine learning algorithm that uses realtime biological signals to predict seizure onset in epileptics and allow for preventative actions. Here, it is hypothesized that centralized and decentralized neurotechnologies vary along two important axes: the power to modulate neural function and the invasiveness of the technology. This classification system has important implications for (a) estimating the rate of neurotechnological proliferation and (b) generating ethical guidelines for both scientific research programs and consumer product development.